Slab Castle & Stone Cross

The boundary of Ardingly turns to the south-west from Eastlands, and crosses the Hapstead-Lindfield road at Slab Castle. This name is now given to the old house on the Lindfield side of the boundary. Probably it was at one time roofed with Horsham slabs and the “castle” was added with an idea of poking fun at it. In the same way Wyndham’s Croft at Selsfield was called Wyndham’s Castle a hundred years ago. The name “Slab Castle” at one time also covered the two modern cottages now called Goddenwick Cottages at the top of the hill, but there is no evidence available at the moment to prove if they stand on the site of an older house of the former name. Goddenwick is in Lindfield, and the “wick” generally stands for a dairy. Whether it was the “wick” belonging to the neighbouring Godards farm is a problem that we will leave to Lindfield to solve.

But there is another name over the border whose history must be recorded as far as it is known. The house at Stone Cross is entirely modern, but there is a mention of the name in a court roll at Lambeth (No. 1082) dated 1488. It is natural to look for the Cross at the four cross roads at the top of Slab Castle hill, two of which are now nothing but farm tracks. But in an old map of the Manor of South Malling made about a hundred years ago it is marked as standing at the corner leading to Horsted Keynes and Cockhaise at the top of Buxshalls Hill near Denne Barn. In a survey taken 53 years ago the remains of the cross are marked in the plantation at the north east side of the corner.

Since the last of these articles was written further information has come to light about the name of Slab Castle. As previously mentioned the map of the manor of South Malling, surveyed in the first quarter of the 19th century, 1801-25, places Stone Cross at the turning to Horsted Keynes. The final state of the map, not later than 1830, shows the name of Stone Cross to have been replaced by Slab Castle. In both maps the position is marked by a rectangular object nearly as large as the old cottage still standing at the corner of the lane leading to Goddard’s Farm. The question at once arises, “Was the name of Slab Castle a term of derision for the remains of the old wayside cross, the steps of which no doubt occupied a considerable space?” Both maps are by Figg, a well-known surveyor in his day. The Ordnance Survey of 1879 gives both names, but Slab Castle is placed on the boundary of Ardingly. It must be remembered that the roads were not in old days enclosed by hedges, so that there was plenty of room at the turning and round the cross.

Note: There is another Slabcastle in Hooklands Lane, Shipley. A list of Sussex dialect names for types of mud reveals that ‘slab’ means thick mud. – Pippa Reay, Shipley History Society

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